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Observations have gone to show that a large proportion of the rain which falls in this locality is accompanied by southwest winds. Seventy per cent of the rainy days were accompanied by N.N.E. winds; eighteen per cent by E.S.E. winds; forty per cent by S.S. W. winds, and nineteen per cent by W.N.W. winds; or to sum up, sixty-two per cent occur in connection with winds from a westerly course. The greatest rain-fall in a given length of time occurred in August, 1851, between the hours of 11 o'clock P. M, of the tenth, and 3 o'clock A. M. of the eleventh, a period of four hours, during which time 10.71 inches fell. The wind both days was from the northeast. The greatest snow-fall was on the twenty-first day of December, 1848, when 20.50 inches fell; the next largest snow-fall was December 28, 1863, when the amount was 15.10 inches in twelve hours.
The winter of 1848 will never be forgotten by the early settlers. The snow commenced early in November before the ground had became frozen, covering the earth with a heavy coat of white, and continued until the unprecedented snow-fall of December 21, before alluded to, which was the most fearful one ever witnessed in the county. The snow continued at a depth of over three feet till the following February. Often there were heavy driving storms and, after a few days cessation, others followed with. such driving force as to render it impossible for the settlers to venture out or to get from place to place without danger of being lost or frozen to death.
There being yet comparatively few settlers in the county and not a great deal of marketing to be done, or foreign trading to be transacted, travel was not sufficient to keep the roads open or form a beaten track in any direc
If anyone found it necessary to venture out any distance from home, the driving winds filled up his tracks almost as fast as he made them, so that he was unable to find the same track upon returning.
The inhabitants of the pioneer cabins were completely snow-bound all winter, never venturing out only in cases of absolute necessity, and then it was at the peril of their lives, or at least of frosted ears and toes, especially if they had any great distance to go. It afforded unparalled opportunity for enjoying home life in case of those who were fortunately favored with the necessary comforts, but to those who were not thus favored it was a terrible winter.
It is said that it was by no means an unusual thing to make several unsuccessful attempts to get through the snow-drifts by those who through want, if not actual starvation, were driven to make the attempt.
This was probably the only winter since the first settlement of the county that the snow was so deep and the cold so vigorous, as to occasion want
and suffering of a general character. As before remarked, 1863 was peculiarly cold throughout; frost occurred every month of the year, and in order to be comfortable it was necessary to keep up a fire occasionally each month, July and August not excepted.
Persons who have been in the county quite a number of years say that it is very seldom that the frost injures the corn crop, it being a characteristic of the climate that when the spring is late the fall is either quite hot or lengthened so as to fully mature the crop. At one time it was supposed that fruit could not be successfully raised in this section. This is probably true with some varieties of fruit, particularly the peach. The mean time for late frosts is May 4, and the mean time for the flowering of fruit trees is May 5, and the peach being a very delicate tree the buds are liable to be destroyed by the late frosts, even though the body of the tree survives the rigors of the winter. With regard to apples and all kinds of small fruit the experience of many years has gone to establish the fact that this region has no equal in the United States.
The great rains of 1851, like the snow of 1848, will be long remembered by the people of Marion county. Early in the spring heavy rains were of frequent occurrence, and they increased in frequency and power till the whole country was literally flooded. Small streams assumed the magnitude of large rivers, while the larger rivers spread out so as to cover the entire portion of bottom-land and in places resembled large lakes where it was impossible to see from shore to shore. Few bridges had been erected at that time, and most of those which had been built were washed away. The inconvenience arising from the heavy rain and the consequent swollen condition of the streams occasioned greater inconvenience, if not so much suffering, as the heavy snows of 1848. Early in the summer the amount of rain-fall gradually diminished and the water in the streams decreased. The flood was at its highest point during the latter part of June, and the waters began to perceptibly abate early in July. The heaviest fall of rain during the entire season, however, occurred during the night of August, 10th, when, as remarked, 10.71 inches fell during the space of four hours. There is a variety of soil as well as surface in the county. Portions along the Des Moines river, in particular, are somewhat broken and uneven, but the soil is productive and peculiarly well adapted for the growth of grasses. Along the river bottoms the soil is very deep and rich, owing to the heavy accretions, and there corn especially is raised with success. As a rule the soil of the county is better adapted to the growth of grass and the cultivation of corn than to the production of the other cereals.
Between the strips of timber are high undulating prairies, on which innumerable small streams take their rise. There are also many small prairies along the streams, the soil of which is very fertile. Prairies are, in fact, the prevailing characteristic of the county. They are abundant in quantity and mostly of a very excellent quality. Prairies, however, are not found in this county of so great extent as in most counties of the State, and there are none in which the soil is of an inferior character. On nearly all of the divides between the rivers and running streams are found large tracts of beautiful, rolling prairie lands, well drained, easily cultivated, highly productive and conveniently located to water, timber, mills and
markets. The character of the soil in these prairies is such that good crops are raised even during very wet and very dry seasons. The soil is light and porous so that ten hours of bright sunshine will dry the roads after a heavy rain and fit the plowed field to be cultivated. The same peculiarity of soil which enables crops to withstand much moisture and thrive during a very wet season, also enables them to endure prolonged drouths; the soil being very porous is capable of absorbing a large amount of water during the rainy season and when the drouth sets in the forces of nature bring back to the surface the surplus moisture from the subterraneous store-houses with as much ease as the water in the first place was absorbed. This is not the case with that quality of soil commonly known as hard-pan; the subsoil not being porous, only a small quantity of water is absorbed, after which it gathers on the surface in pools and is then carried away by the process of evaporation; drouth sets in, and as soon as the moisture is exhausted from the surface soil plants wither and die.
Along the river bluffs at numerous places gush forth springs of living water, whose supply even during the dryest seasons seems to be exhaustless, while good well-water can be obtained anywhere by digging or boring a distance of from fifteen to thirty feet. The lakes which are represented on the early maps prove to be nothing but small sloughs. It is found that by draining these marshy places they afford the most productive spots of land, It will not be many years, under the present enterprising management, till all these sloughs will be converted into corn-fields.
The geological characteristics of the county are varied and form an interesting subject of study and investigation. In this progressive age, and owing to the present advanced stage of scientific research, the intelligent people of Marion county will not fail to be interested by a somewhat elaborate dissertation upon the subject of local geology as applied to the formation of their own lands, the constituents of their own soil, and the comparisons and contrasts which will be made with other and adjoining counties. In discussing this subject we draw not only upon facts of our own observation, but avail ourselves of the best authorities at our command.
The geological formations of Marion county belong to the post-tertiary and coal-measure periods, and are of the simplest character. Post-tertiary drift is spread generally over the county and is of variable thickness, estimated at from fifteen to twenty feet. The bluffs along the streams are largely composed of these deposits.
The drift is made up of clays representing the original glacial deposits, and gravel-beds; besides boulders, pebbles and "sand-pockets," with occasional fragments of coniferous wood.
The deposit to which the name drift is applied has a far wider distribution than any other surface deposit. In the language of Prof. White: "It meets our eyes almost everywhere covering the earth like a mantle and hiding the stratified rocks from view, except where they are exposed by the removal of drift through the erosive action of water. It forms the soil and subsoil of the greater part of the State, and in it alone many of our wells are dug and our forests take root." The drift is composed of clay, sand, gravel, pebbles, and sometimes boulders, promiscuously intermixed, with stratification or regular arrangement of its materials.
The clay is always impure and is disseminated through the whole deposit; not unfrequently, however, irregular masses of it are separated from the other materials and at such places the, best material is procured for pottery and brick. The color of the clay when found in its purest condition is yellow, arising from the presence of peroxide of iron; it is the presence of this constituent which imparts to brick their peculiar color.
The proportion of lime in the drift is not so great in the drift of Marion county as farther south; the proportion of sand is much greater, although it is seldom found separated from the other materials in any degree of purity; it is not unfrequently the case, however, that sand exists in excess of the other materials and in some cases accumulations or "pockets" are found having a considerable degree of purity. The large proportion of sand in the soil and subsoil of Marion county is what imparts to it the peculiar quality of withstanding drouth or excessive moisture, before explained.
Alluvium-The deposits strictly referable to this formation in Marion county, are: the soil everywhere covering the surface, and narrow belts of alluvial bottom-lands skirting the principal streams; these consist of irregularly stratified deposits of sand, gravel and decomposed vegetable matter, the whole seldom exceeding ten or twelve feet in thickness. The reader will understand that the original surface of the land consisted of rock; portions of these rocks having been detached by the action of the elements by chemical causes and the action of glaciers in prehistoric times were afterward transported by subsequent floods; this constitutes the soil and is alluvivm or drift, according to its pecular formation.
The entire county is referable to the formation known as the middle and lower coal-measure. With regard to the economic value of this formation Prof. White says:
"No other formation in the whole State possesses anything near the economic value that the lower coal-measures do, nor is there one which will have so great an influence upon its future prosperity. These remarks, of course, refer to the coal which the formation contains; for although the middle coal-measures will furnish no inconsiderable quantities of coal, and the upper coal-measures also small quantities, far the greater part of that indispenable element of material prosperity is contained in the strata of the lower coal-measure."
With regard to the coal formation of Marion county, Prof. White, the geologist, makes the following observations:
"Marion is without doubt, one of the best coal counties of the State. Indeed, except in the immediate valley of the Des Moines, and in the lower portions of some of its tributary creeks, a shaft of two hundred, or three hundred feet depth at most, could hardly fail to pass through one or more coal beds.
"At least three different beds of coal exist in the county, but the neces sary details about them have not been marked out, so that it is not certainly known whether the principal bed of each particular locality where it is observed, constitutes one continuous bed, and the other beds always unimportant, or, what is more likely the case whether each is in its turn the principal bed in some localities, the other two being either abeent or unimportant.
"The following are notices of some of the principal mines and natural exposures of coal in the county. Near Otley Station, on the Des Moines
Valley Railroad, about seven miles westward from Pella, Mr. Roberts, Mr. Fisher and Mr. Barnes have each opened mines in the valley of a tributary creek of the Des Moines, where the coal, evidently the same bed, varies from four to six feet in thickness within a half mile. Four miles southward from Pella Mr. Nossaman has opened and worked a three foot bed of coal. This is without doubt the lowest bed in the series, since the subcarboniferous limestone is exposed at the same point twenty-five feet beneath the coal bed.
"At Coalport, a little village some four or five miles from Pella, there is a natural exposure of two beds of coal. They appear one above the other in the face of a bluff immediately upon the right bank of the Des Moines River. They are only ten feet apart, the lower being about two feet thick, and hardly workable, while the other is between six and seven feet thick, the coal being excellent. Mr. H. F. Bousquet has opened a mine in the latter bed.
"About two miles north of Knoxville Mr. O'Neal has opened a mine in the valley side of Whitebreast Creek. Here two beds of coal have come so nearly together as to be conveniently mined as one. Just upon the southern border of Knoxville Mr. Brobst has opened a mine in a four foot bed of coal, which, no doubt, underlies the whole town. Along the valley of English Creek, from a point immediately south of Knoxville to where it merges with the Des Moines, coal is found exposed in the valley sides. The thickness of the coal varies from three to seven feet, evidently thickening to the eastward, so that near Bussing's mill it reaches the last named thickness. Near this mill, which is about four miles east of Knoxville, another bed of coal appears which is about fifteen feet beneath the principal one, but which is only about one and a half feet thick.
"Coal from five to seven feet thick is found at various intervals in the valley sides of the North and South Cedar Creeks, ranging from the point where they enter the county to where they enter the valley of the Des Moines. Just where South Cedar Creek crosses the southern boundary of the county, the coal is exposed by the creek, showing a thickness of between six and seven feet. A mile above Marysville Mr. Jacob Kline has opened a mine in which the coal has a thickness of nearly ten feet, but looking closely it is seen to consist of two separate beds, with only a thin parting of shale between. The lower one is nearly seven feet thick, and the upper one nearly three feet, the lower being evidently the better coal. At Marysville John Yenser, D. F. Leiby, and the Mill Company, have all opened mines in the same bed, which there measures from five to six feet thick. A couple of miles below the village, G. F. Clemons has opened the same bed, where it has about the same thickness. Daniel Sherwood has opened a four foot bed a couple of miles southeastward from Attica. natural exposure of coal appears in the bluff bank of North Cedar, on section 16, township 74, range 18. A. B. Lyman, Esq., has also made some openings further down the creek.
"These are only references to the principal mines and natural exposures of coal in Marion county. Many others are already known and there is hardly a limit to the number of mines that may be conveniently opened within its limits. Besides its coal, it is also one of the best timbered counties in the State.
"It is also well supplied with stone, compared with most other counties of the State. The subcarboniferous limestone is exposed at intervals near